Spain is certainly a mecca of culture and food, but for horse lovers it is also an equestrian destination. Our trip started in Madrid (another story in itself), but to focus on the wonderful horse, we took the Atocha (train) to Andalucía. Our destination was Jerez de la Fonterra because it’s the location of the Real Escuela Andulza de Arta Ecuestre (Spanish riding school).
In February, Madrid being farther North had a chill to the air; getting off the train in Jerez to blue skies and warm air was wonderful. We arrived at our hotel to find it resort like; full of palms and orange trees bursting with ripe fruit. After a walk past the gates of the Spanish riding school, I became determined to ride (at the time, there was not riding available at the school). After some googling, I located a riding complex in the nearby town of Puerto de Santa Maria. I made a call and with luck found someone speaking English that booked a ride for the next day (my Spanish is awful). What luck!
Our best course was the train and a taxi ride to get there. A great thing about Spain is their extensive train system. We arrived to a gated riding complex with expensive cars parked outside. Inside we found large stalls facing a square courtyard. Outside the courtyard were small dirt paddocks on one side and on the other, large run-ins with two horses in each. My guess is these allowed interaction, while protecting the horses from the sweltering 40-50C heat of the summer sun. A view of a large sand ring peaked through a break in the row of stalls. Overall a beautiful facility that also appeared to cater to the horse’s needs.
The stables were quiet with a lone blacksmith attending to the horses. We decided on a beach ride, but I am sure a keen rider could take a jumping or dressage lesson; something I would love if I ever return. The instructor asked about our abilities and matched us to suitable horses.
We drove through residential neighborhoods and enjoyed the scenery, as Jesus waved to people we passed by. He asked what kind of riding I do, so I asked if he knew the North American hunters? With a silly motion of a rider posing and an “oh yes,” he explained that he did. As we exited the truck, I showed him a photo of me jumping on my phone, which he was actually impressed with. Phew.
Jesus said, as an experienced rider, he gave me a horse that “likes to dance…” I got his meaning when we jigged and half-passed our way to the beach. Jesus was riding what looked to be a beautiful Andalusian stallion. He had him doing dressage movements as we headed towards the sound of waves crashing. I asked if he knew the breed of our horses? Looking at the steady eddy with his nose in the air, “well he, is probably part camel.”
A sandy forest trail opened up to the beach. It might be February, but for us Canadians, it was a balmy 24C. The blue-green ocean glistened like a jewel, while waves crashed onto the sand leaving trails of lace-like foam behind. The beach was nearly empty, so we left a lone trail of hoof prints behind.
“That is Africa (pointing across ocean towards where Morocco must be) and that is Cadiz.”
He explained that he taught himself English because Cadiz has a high population of people from the UK that look for riding lesson while in Spain. Jokingly he explained that for a long time all he good say were things like “trot on” and “good pony.”
He asked if we were American and we explained that we were actually from Canada. This he found endlessly interesting, as he had only met one other group of Canadians. He told us how Canada and Sweden are thought to be the best places to live! Glad he has such a great view of us Canadians!
We continued down the beach enjoying the fresh air and salty spray of water. My horse arched his neck and jigged away from the waves. “Ah he is afraid; lets go in the water!” We enjoyed walking in and out of the ocean, the rest of the way down the beach. I think my mount for the day would make a decent dressage horse, although he was a little small for me.
On our ride back, I reflected that this was my favourite spot to ride throughout my travels. We rode on a beautiful beach, on lovely horses, and had great conversation – a perfect afternoon.
Back at the stables I helped Jesus unload the horses and untack them. It was lovely to go on a ride that allowed me to help care for the horses. After a quick brush and a final look around the bright and sunny courtyard, we were on our way.
This stable was certainly a find and I would highly recommend it to someone looking for a beautiful beach ride, a camp for their kids, or a serious riding lesson. Look up Equestrian Center Las Marias!